eyes on the U.S.

Disrupting Decades Of U.S.-Mexican Cooperation

Donald Trump's decision to threaten Mexican exports over migration is weakening years of U.S.-Mexican cooperation, further shaken by this weekend's El Paso shooting.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaking in Washington on Aug. 2
U.S. President Donald Trump speaking in Washington on Aug. 2
Luis Rubio


MEXICO CITY — When the Andrea Gail left the port of Gloucester for a final, desperate fishing trip of the season, its captain and crew hardly imagined they would run into the "perfect storm." But everything that could go wrong combined to produce a calamity. Something similar may be brewing in U.S.-Mexican relations: perhaps nobody is looking for it or wants it but little by little, there are converging elements that may if not addressed, yield a showdown. It would be the type of confrontation not seen over three decades, and which people had come to rule out.

For almost a century, relations between the neighbors oscillated between violence and distant hostility. The U.S. invasion of 1846 shook Mexico to the core, provoking a nationalist reaction certain historians even consider it the birth pang of the Mexican identity. The two nations had their ups and downs in the revolutionary period of the early 20th century, with crises following threats to not recognize new Mexican presidents, and everything that implied. Post-revolutionary governments kept a distant relationship with the United States while promoting national unity, and using past territorial losses (to the U.S.) as the unifying tool. It was all possible because the country was inward-looking and any foreign ties were essentially symbolic.

Relations oscillated between violence and distant hostility.

The financial crises of the 1970s and 1980s forced Mexico to reconsider its economic policies, which led to a redefinition of ties with the United States. It began exporting more and more to the U.S. market, which also created disputes ranging from charges of dumping to boycotting tuna. For the first time since its independence in the early 19th century, Mexico began to see its northern neighbor as a potential solution to economic problems. Likewise the United States had problems that could be resolved with the Mexican government's cooperation. As bilateral interaction increased, and problems multiplied, both old and new — from President Richard Nixon closing the border to the death of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Both nations finally recognized the need to establish mechanisms to ensure a functional relationship.

Memorial to the Mexican soldiers fallen in the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec — Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/PR

In the late 1980s, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Carlos Salinas de Gortari agreed on a set of principles, both explicit and implicit, to ensure good working relations and resolve or at least manage problems inherent in such a vast, complex and unequal relationship. At its heart was the crucial principle of isolating problems and dealing with each separately, to assure a basic, daily working relationship.

Mixing unrelated matters (like drugs and trade) produced constant crises and frayed nerves. Compartmentalizing them however meant giving each the attention it deserved, and a commitment not to infect the domestic arena with highly sensitive issues, like migration for the U.S or arms smuggling for Mexico. This was intended to safeguard the smooth flow of other, more natural aspects of the relationship, like trade across the border. This was the 1988 Houston agreement that boosted bilateral ties and led to NAFTA. Successive governments on both sides have since stuck to its principles, and recognized that mixing issues could threaten pragmatic working relations.

That is until now, when President Donald Trump has tied trade to migration and is raising doubts about this relationship. It is no longer about launching into diatribes against Mexico and Mexicans. The administration is threatening the principal engine of the Mexican economy (exports) by blackmailing the López Obrador government over an issue, migration, that is of particular concern to its support base and may closely affect its legitimacy.

Trump has tied trade to migration and is raising doubts about the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

The Mexican government has so far responded in two ways: Announcing on the one hand a review of the security cooperation model (Mérida Plan) and on the other, grudgingly accepting the terms of Trump's demands over Central American migration. These are contradictory and sooner or later, sparks will fly.

There has been further tensions following Saturday's mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Authorities say the gunman was targeting Latinos, and seven Mexican citizens were among the 22 dead in the border city. The Mexican government has responded by saying it would pursue terrorism charges in the US legal system over the shooting

The debate inside the United States has so far ignored the benefits to the country of the Mexican government's cooperation in different fields, which was part of the incentive for the agreement reached in Houston 30 years ago. The danger now is that the U.S. administration's conduct will push the Mexicans away, back to a policy of estrangement and end up destroying all the things that have worked so well for decades, to the benefit of both sides.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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